Updated: Apr 10, 2019
If I have learned anything from the Jussie Smolett story that has unfolded over the past month, it is to not be so reactive when it comes to forming opinions on social conversations and news commentary. A lot of commentators, myself included, were left with egg on the face after ushering in our own implicit biases and forming opinions based on what fit our own specific agendas. That is a part of the tribal political culture, and “first to commentate” game we all participate in on social media.
In journalism school we were taught techniques of information gathering and clearly citing the sources we used to tell a story. My generation of journalist and the generations before me were not prepared for the temptation that social media presents to a news commentator or journalist; the temptation of being first to present our story or opinions, even if that means not waiting for the facts or nuance of the situation or event. When all news reporters and journalist worked in newsrooms with traditional media outlets there was a line of people that a story had to pass through before print or broadcast. That included the writer, producer or editor, news director and probably even more people in larger markets. Those people were allowed to challenge you and ask questions that held you accountable for the story you were telling. Now, you can impulsively post for the world to see with little to no accountability beforehand. That leads to false narratives.
As a freelancer and blogger myself, I recognize the way I can impact a conversation and that is a conversation that I take very seriously. All journalist and commentators need to take a step back when news breaks, and wait for evidence and investigate the truth without first creating their own narrative of what has happened or what is happening. That is how we as an industry begin to win back the trust of the public. We must hold ourselves accountable for what we say and right, and understand that we have the responsibility to always present the story as it is and not how we want it to be.